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RIC explores black resistance through photography

"Power to the People: Photography and Video of Repression and Black Protest" opens January 18
January 13, 2017
Inmates of Attica State Prison negotiate with state prisons Commissioner Russell Oswald at the facility in Attica, NY, USA, September 10, 1971

Photo: Inmates of Attica State Prison negotiate with state prisons Commissioner Russell Oswald at the facility in Attica, NY, USA, September 10, 1971. Courtesy of the Associated Press.

In 1971, amid great political unrest in the United States, 2,200 inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility rebelled in demand of civil rights and better living conditions. Following failed negotiations, New York state police violently regained control of the prison, resulting in the deaths of 42 detainees and correctional officers. From the revolt’s outset, the inmates gave selected observers and journalists unusual access to film and photograph the prison and uprising.

In winter 2017, the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) and Black Artist’s Network Dialogue (BAND) are teaming up to present a season of shows that reflect on the event, its aftermath, and the tumultuous era that birthed it: external,Power to the People: Photography and Video of Repression and Black Protest. These exhibitions look back on a time when opposition to the Vietnam War led to the mobilization of resistance groups (notably the Black Panthers), and explores the historical and ongoing struggle for justice between people of colour and police forces representing the state.

Attica, USA 1971 presents still and moving images offering extraordinary insight into the American incarceration system and the country’s fraught politics of race and power. In Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, portraits by American photographer Dawoud Bey commemorate the six young victims of the notorious Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Alongside this artistic act of remembrance, a selection from the RIC’s Black Star Collection of photojournalism provides historical context for the bombing, recounting the political and social turmoil that placed this U.S. city, and the burgeoning American Civil Rights Movement, in the international media spotlight during the months leading up to the explosion.

Adam Pendleton’s My Education, A Portrait of David Hilliard takes viewers to the site of a fatal 1968 gun battle between Black Panther Party activists and the police of Oakland, California. The video draws on Hilliard's eyewitness account to raise questions about an event that continues to reverberate deeply today. Sister(s) in the Struggle: Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver features photographs from the RIC’s Black Star Collection of photojournalism, showing Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver, leading female figures of the Black Panther Party.

Featuring the work of artists Zun Lee, Jalani Morgan and Nation Cheong, No Justice, No Peace: From Ferguson to Toronto positions photography at the forefront during an era of heightened global protests against systemic violence by police. All are socially conscious photographers whose images evoke the pan-geographic urgency with which their black subjects demand to be seen and heard. This exhibition will be on view at BAND’s pop-up gallery at the Gladstone Hotel from February 2 to 26, 2017.

The season launches with a reception on Wednesday, January 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibitions will be on view at the RIC from until April 9, 2017.

RIC

Stephen Shames, Oakland, California, USA: Black Panthers carry George Jackson's coffin into St. Augustine's Church for his funeral service as a huge crowd watches, August, 28, 1971, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Steven Kasher Gallery, New York.